Google agrees to work with the CMA to resolve third party cookie future

Google’s ongoing campaign to launch an alternative to third party cookies, which it hopes to phase out from its Chrome browser by 2023, took another turn this week.

The tech company acknowledged that it has agreed to work closely with  the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the UK to find a way of removing third party cookies that is acceptable to the advertising industry.

Fears that Google’s proposed Privacy Sandbox plans could adversely affect the company’s online advertising rivals prompted discussions which have led to CMA seeking reassurances from the tech company.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) now claims to have won “improved commitments” from Google on its proposals to remove third-party cookies and other functions from its Chrome browser software.  

Google had argued that removing cookies, which track individuals as they browse the internet, a move that has already been postponed several times but is now slated for 2023,  would increase the privacy of its users by concealing their data.

The CMA responded by highlighting how the changes could lead to more ad money being spent on Google products at the expense of its rivals. It also suggested that without the correct safeguards the move could also undermine the ability of online publishers to generate revenue and produce content.

CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said: “We have always been clear that Google’s efforts to protect user’s privacy cannot come at the cost of reduced competition.”

“If accepted, the commitments we have obtained from Google become legally binding, promoting competition in digital markets, helping to protect the ability of online publishers to raise money through advertising and safeguarding users’ privacy.”

The main areas of concert are over Google’s alternatives to third party cookies, namely a cohort system (also known as FLoC) that groups together users who have elements in common such as hobby, a passion or a location.

The initiative has been welcomed by some publishing execs, but roundly criticised by others.

Privacy interest groups are also wary of the plans with the EFF, for example, suggesting it could even amplify problems like discrimination and predatory ad targeting. 

But it was worries about how the FLoC system could impact the advertising industry that has led to the interest from the CMA. The organisation will look at the new commitments from Google as well as hearing views from inserted parties and will then make a call on next steps in the new year.

Techcrunch has an in depth look at what the CMA is proposing and the implications for Google here.

FIPP also recently produced a white paper on the death of third party cookies which is available to download here.


Your first step to joining FIPP's global community of media leaders

Sign up to FIPP World x